Tejon Ranch to Release Secret Condor Documents at Long Last

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Adam Keats, (415) 632-5304, (415) 845-2509 (cell)

Tejon Ranch to Release Secret Condor Documents at Long Last

Meanwhile, Massive Development Plans Move Forward and Company's Lawsuit Against Condor Protection Remains Active

LOS ANGELES - The Tejon Ranch Company announced
yesterday that it would seek to lift the protective order it had filed
in its own lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the
reintroduction of the California condor. The announcement comes after
years of effort
by the Center for Biological Diversity to obtain the secret documents
and just days before the expected filing by the Center of its own
lawsuit demanding the release of the documents.

The
request also comes nearly a month after the Fish and Wildlife Service
stopped accepting comments on the draft habitat conservation plan that
is at the heart of Tejon's lawsuit, making the documents all but
worthless to the public for use in contributing to the agency's
deliberations. The draft plan would allow Tejon to harm the California
condor and destroy thousands of acres of designated critical habitat
for the endangered bird.

"Tejon Ranch's timing is
remarkably convenient," said Adam Keats, urban wildlands program
director at the Center. "For seven years straight, the corporation has
prevented these documents from seeing the light of day. Only now, after
the door has been slammed shut on the public process, does it seek to
release them to the public. But the lawsuit Tejon filed to prevent the
successful reintroduction of the California condor remains active,
poised like a gun to the head of the agency that's reviewing the
company's application."

On June 11, 2009, the Center informed
the Fish and Wildlife Service that its continued withholding of the
documents was a violation of the Endangered Species Act, and that the
Center would file suit in 60 days to halt the review process for the
draft plan. The Endangered Species Act requires that "information
received by the [Fish and Wildlife Service] as a part of any
application [for a "take permit," which allows the harming, harassing,
or killing of protected species] shall be available to the public as a
matter of public record at every stage of the proceeding."

"As
Tejon admits today, its lawsuit against the Fish and Wildlife Service
led directly to the proposed habitat conservation plan," said Adam
Keats. "But getting a take permit from the federal government can't
happen with some back-room deal made to settle a lawsuit - it's a
serious undertaking that the law requires the public be invited to at
every stage."

The Fish and Wildlife Service is
currently reviewing an application by Tejon Ranch for a habitat
conservation plan and "incidental take permit" for 26 endangered,
threatened, or rare species on Tejon Ranch. The permits are essential
to Tejon's plans to develop Tejon Mountain Village, the controversial
luxury-home subdivision planned for the heart of designated critical
habitat for the California condor.

In 1997, just as
officials with the Condor Recovery Team were starting to release
captive-reared California condors to the wild, Tejon Ranch sued the
Fish and Wildlife Service to curtail the condor recovery program and
relegate the condors to a special status without protection under the
Endangered Species Act. Tejon's legal arguments, although arguably
specious and at best very weak, were not seriously opposed by the
government, which instead settled the case for what is believed to be a
sweetheart deal that has resulted in the current plan and take-permit
application.

In 1999, at Tejon's request, the entire
record for the lawsuit was sealed by court order and the case
indefinitely stayed, leaving the case (and the order) active for the
past 10 years. The terms of the order are not limited to just
court-filed documents, though, as it includes all documents "related"
to the settlement in any way, apparently including documents related to
subject of the settlement: the proposed plan, condors, and Tejon's
development plans. The Service has since demonstrated its willingness
to give this language as expansive a definition as possible.

Preserving
Tejon Ranch as a new national or state park would protect a bounty of
native plant and animal communities, cultural and historic features,
and scenic vistas. See http://www.savetejonranch.org
.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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